Mitigating Mistrust? Participation and Expertise in Hydraulic Fracturing Governance
© 2016 Policy Studies Organization In Canada's Yukon Territory, a legislative committee was tasked with assessing the risks and benefits of hydraulic fracturing. The committee designed an extensive participatory process involving citizens and experts; however, instead of information access and public hearings fostering an open dialogue and trust, these two channels failed to de-polarize debates over hydraulic fracturing. We argue that mistrust was reinforced because (1) weak participatory processes undermined the goals of public involvement, (2) scientific evidence and scientists themselves were not accepted as neutral or apolitical, and (3) strategic fostering of mistrust by actors on both sides of a polarized issue intensified existing doubt about the integrity and credibility of the process. The implications of a failure to restore trust in government are significant, not only for the issue of hydraulic fracturing, but for governance more broadly, as mistrust has spillover effects for subsequent public negotiations.
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